Vladimir Pozner, a famous intellectual, a great journalist, a valuable source of knowledge, an exceptional human being, a man whose words carry their weight, are carefully chosen and sacred to many.
In this part of the world, Vladimir Pozner needs no further introduction, he is known best as the “Larry King” of Russia.
Vladmir Pozner graced us with his presence during his visit to Dubai end of March 2017. To say our encounter was full of excitement does not do him any justice. Epochs, cultures and knowledge have forged into this legendary person, whose wisdom and love for freedom simply mesmerize you.
- I was very surprised by the weather upon your arrival to Dubai, heavy rain started with thunder and lightning and it continued for three days. I would like to refer to the phrase during your live broadcast on CNN: “I wish to dance under the rain”. Dubai has done the impossible, giving you such a welcome, considering that geographically it is a desert and rain is a rare phenomenon here. What are your thoughts about Dubai?
I've visited Dubai several years ago upon Sheikh's invitation and it had also happened during the World Cup Races. Over the years, as far as I can tell, the city has changed quite a lot, a large number of new, modern buildings have appeared. To say that I understand what Dubai is – I cannot. I assume, if you take the number of people living here, then the Arabs are the minority, a significant minority, around 12-15%, but they are the masters of the situation, whereas the majority of people living here work for them, from those who clean the floors to those who run the companies. I have no idea of how life goes on here.
I know that I would not like to live here, I'm a very European person, despite the fact that a large number of Europeans live in Dubai and there are some reasons for that. Some are saved from high taxes, and that fact always gives me the mixed feelings. I understand them, but at the same time, I think that taxes must be paid.
- What do you think of having the Ministry of Happiness in the UAE?
Happiness is a completely personal attribute and it refers specifically to people's relations. I understand what does it mean – just to create a proper environment for the people and let them enjoy being part of this country. What the name of such a minister is doesn't carry much importance, but I am convinced that how people feel largely depends on the state and on rulers of the country.
Scandinavian countries have been most successful in achieving that, I mean Norway, Denmark and Sweden, where the state has put many things in place to make people feel good, feel confident, feel protected; people there have all the advantages of democracy, but with some elements of socialism, like free school education and etc...
I'm currently working on Scandinavian subjects, knowing that very soon I will do the documentary about this historical and cultural region. I was very surprised by the fact that in Denmark the difference in earnings between 10% of the highest paid and 10% of the lowest paid workers is only 4% which means they live almost the same. The huge gap between super rich and very poor does not exist and this immediately removes a lot of questions in terms of the person's health, envy, feelings of unsettleness and so on. I do not know whom the Ministery of Happiness targets in the UAE, whether it means only Arabs?
- This applies to the entire population of the UAE. Some reforms are being implemented to ensure that people, whether locals or expats, feel confident and happy being the residents of this country. One of the latest initiatives is the construction of mid-market or low-cost housing...
If so, then God will grant this initiative!
- You were born in France, you grew up in America, you came to Russia when you were 19 years old. This gives you a global insight on how various cultures have different beliefs, religious and otherwise. Who introduced you to God? What lead you to drop your belief in God and openly declare that you are an atheist, though still in your speech, phrases about God still slip every now and then?
I did not give up faith, because I've never been a believer. Yes, I was baptized which I realized later. My mother was an agnostic, she had never gone to church and we did not talk about religion at home. My father was an atheist so the questions about faith have never risen. When I was five years old, I was staying with a very religious French family during the German resistance. They made me read prayers before going to bed, even so I've never had the conviction that there is a certain power named God, who created everything and knows everything, that there is hell and paradise, and also purgatory. The more I met this in literature, the less I believed in it.
- And yet in every issue of the program "Posner", according to the questionnaire of Marcel Proust, there is always a question: "What do you tell the Lord when you go to Heaven?"
This has nothing to do with me. In my opinion, this is a very revealing question. Different people respond to this in different ways, many say very much the same. It's just a paint, and as for my attitude, it never changed, it deepened.
I read the Bible, I read many times both the Old Testament and the New Testament in both English and Russian. My attitude boils down to the fact that religion is also a kind of philosophy, a kind of perception of the world, and as for the church, it's completely different. Church, in my opinion, is an unacceptable organization whereas Religion is a definite philosophy which I disagree with.
- Do you agree then with the possibility to build an ideal society?
The obsession to build an ideal society generates tragedies and there is an example of Russia with its October Revolution 1917, which this year celebrates 100 years. Its statements and its goal were to create something similar to what could be called an ideal society and now we see where this led.
- Where did this lead to?
To disaster, of course.
- Has Russia already recovered from that disaster?
We are talking about the destruction of many millions of people, about Stalin's Gulag, about the departure of a huge number of people from the country, thus the idea which aimed to create a new beautiful world turned out to be a nightmare.
In fact, the obsession for achieving the ideals, in my opinion, leads to serious consequences. We should understand that the ideal is something that we paint ourselves in our minds, although ourselves, we are not ideal and subject to passions; we love and hate, being envy and being jealous. I even can say that we are slaves of our passions and talking about an ideal society I don't see the point.
- But still many people believed in these ideals, including your father. The collapse of the Soviet Union in the 90's shocked many people who believed in the socialist propaganda.
This is true, it had happened because they received one-sided information and believed that the Soviet Union was completely different, though the Soviet Union was the empire, it was the continuation of the Russian Empire, and history teaches us that empires are always finite. Any empire whether the Roman Empire, the English Empire, even the British Empire - "the empire on which the sun never set"; all empires come to their end.
- 27 years ago, you published your book, "Parting with Illusions". Since then everything around us has evolved, the world has changed. Men of state and alliances too. You too have changed, your opinions on matters surely varies. Do you feel a new volume in English is necessary now to complete the first book?
This book was published in Russian language few years ago. I did not translate the English version for a long time and I did not allow anyone else to do this. The English version took a lot of my efforts and I did not want to return to it for a long time. Once I translated it after 18 years and re-read the Russian-language version - it become obvious to me - that so many thoughts and events are no longer corresponding to today's reality. I could have done a totally new book creating the impression in people's minds that I had known about many things happening today - however that would not be fair.
I came to the conclusion that throughout the course of the book (the Russian version) I would insert new comments so that people have an idea of what I had written that time. The Russian version of the book was published in 2012. Will I continue to write? I do not know. I will stick to what Leo Tolstoy once said, "If you are able not to write, don't write." I believe that this is a very good advice, unfortunately, not many apprehend it. If I do write something, it's only because I cannot resist doing so, however it will not be the continuation, it will be a completely different new book.
- I listened to your many statements on CNN and CNBC. You have a great knowledge and excellent command of English...
English is my native language. I wrote my book "Parting with Illusions" in English because it was an order. My American friend Brian Kahn was visiting me every day and asked the questions, so we recorded 40 tapes. Then he deciphered all of them, put the information in the form of chapters and sent it to me. I gave the approval for printing. Brian Kahn showed this material to a very well-known literary editor at that time, who said the following: "Well, Posner does not say anything about himself." Brian told me about this and I got angry about it, threw everything he had sent to me and wrote another version of the book. Then one literary agent in America began to offer this manuscript and thus the book came out.
- You have created many documentaries such as "Tour de France", "One-storied America", "Jewish Happiness" and others. In the documentary about the Holy land, you try to be objective and bring closer two positions: the position of Israel and the position of Palestine. In your opinion, is it justified what each side is doing in the name of religion?
This question requires great accuracy of terms. In fact, religion does nothing, people do. At the same time, religious views are the engine of the people's behavior and their actions. At different times, different religions showed aggression and opposition to worldviews, and this worldview, in this case, is called religion.
It is enough to read the Old Testament, how aggressive and how bloody was the assertion of Judaism, the destruction of peoples who were not chosen by God, according to the Old Testament. Religion, as a philosophical phenomenon, is not tolerant. Everyone claims his exclusiveness and that the truth is on their side, that there is only one God who professes only in their religion.
Partially because if that, I am therefore an opponent of religion, such a philosophy, which claims that one who does not share my faith must be destroyed. If you read what Jesus Christ said, it is not so - on the contrary.
- I would like to conclude our conversation remembering the dearest person for you at all the times - your mother, who played a key role in your life and, probably, continues to influence you. This is proved by the fact that you, along with your brother, opened a restaurant, "Chez Geraldine", which is named after her.
The restaurant "Chez Geraldine" is not a proper example of my mom's influence on me though, in fact, her influence on me was very immense, she was a very reserved and laconic person. She played a big role on my perception of life just by her presence and her behavior. She always remains in my memories and in my heart, despite the fact that I understand that she is no longer among us.
- However Dr. Weiss Bryan in his book "Many Lives, Many Masters", and not only he, says that life never ends. There is physical and metaphysical sides of our reality. Do you believe such kind of statements?
I do not believe in life after death and I am absolutely convinced that we are not eternal, however we remain in the memories of our beloved ones. And if you have created something outstanding during your life, you remain in the memory of many people such as great artists and great figures.
Nevertheless, in my opinion, as a biologist and just like a person who thought a lot about it, there is no other life (after death), because no one can prove it yet. I agree that it is very pleasant to think that there might be, so that it probably makes it easier to part with life, to Part With Illusions...